Kevin's BBQ Joints

Kevin's BBQ Joints Blog

My Favorite BBQ Joints Volume 30 – RL Reeves Jr. – Scrumptious Chef

I’m actually surprised that RL Reeves Jr. accepted my invitation to provide his list of favorite BBQ joints. Perhaps it’s from my persistence or a weak moment on his part, but regardless of the reason, you’re in for something special this week. RL Reeves Jr. is easily the busiest and most proficient writer in pursuit of all that Austin (and beyond) offers when it comes to food and drink. By the time you’ve read this short paragraph he’s no doubt penned and published 3-4 pieces on either Scrumptious Chef or Chowpapi. What makes this week’s list different than the other 29 previous is that he has gone outside of the United States to offer up a few gems that I know for sure you’ve never heard of.

Here are RL Reeves Jr.’s favorite BBQ joints in his words:

“This is tough. Tougher than it has any right being. It’s hard to make a top ten list out of the hundreds of barbecue joints I’ve eaten at over the years but I’ve been tasked {tricked} into having a go at it, so here they are: In order, starting with the number one spot.

1} Archibald’s Barbecue in Northport, Alabama. The finest smoked meat I ever put in my mouth and holder of the always revered “final meal on earth if I had time to plan such a thing.” Since 1962, the Archibald family has been putting out pork butts and pork ribs in their tiny {seats 6} barbecue stand just north of Tuscaloosa. George Archibald Jr is the pitmaster {a term I do not use lightly, big difference between pitmaster and pitboss} and his sister Paulette makes the sauce. It’s the best barbecue I’ve ever eaten and the only sauce on earth I buy a gallon at a time.


Photo of Archibald’s courtesy of Buffetbuster @ RoadFood.com

2} JMueller Barbecue in Austin,Texas. Street fighting man. The hot-headed John Mueller is a cypher to this day. A puzzle of a man who has left a giant, fist-shaped mark on the world of Texas barbecue. I never know if I’m going to get the plate of smoked meat I’ve just ordered or if we’re going to start rolling and tumbling in the dirt parking lot of his eponymous food trailer in south Austin. The best handmade sausage I’ve found in Texas and the best beef chuck ribs in the Great State.


Photo of JMueller BBQ courtesy of Full Custom Gospel BBQ

3} R&G Barbecue in McMahan, Texas. The old pit boss of City Market in Luling and Luling City Market in Houston, Roy Jeffrey has a half-century of experience in the world of Texas smoked meat. Superb brisket, handmade Texas hot guts sausage and some of the best barbecue sauce I’ve ever eaten. Go on a Friday afternoon when the old-timers gather to throw bones, eat brisket and hang out in one of the sweetest dining rooms you’ll find in Texas.


Photo of Jeffrey from R&G Barbecue courtesy of Chowpapi.com

4} I have a deep love for American barbecue but after years of research and eating my way across our country, I felt like there was a giant gap in my education. Time to go to Turkey. In Istanbul there are numerous barbecue joints with the meat cultures of Syria, Kurdistan, Egypt, Morocco and a host of other countries represented. I’ve eaten at dozens of them but only one can rule the city and that is Zubeyir. Run by 5 Kurdish brothers, the little cafe in Beyoglu district puts out traditional barbecue representative of the eastern provinces of Turkey-Kurdistan according to some folks. Their tarak {lamb spare ribs} are one of the greatest dishes I’ve ever eaten in a restaurant.


Photo of Zubeyir

5} When I first began venturing to North Holland back in the 90s, I was determined to explore the phenomenon of Dutch Ribs. As is my custom, I did several months of research prior to boarding the plane and eventually determined that De Klos in Amsterdam was the joint of highest repute. Unbelievable. Giant, meaty racks of pork spare ribs are given a final denouement on a scorching hot grill at the end of the bar where you perch, drinking delicious Dutch beer, while you wait on your order. Raw onions, hunks of fresh bread and a mayonnaise dipping sauce complete the picture. One of the great barbecue experiences on this planet..


Photo of De Klos courtesy of You Pretty Things

6} Black’s Barbecue in Lockhart, Texas wears the crown of the city that would be king. It’s really not that close. They kill the competition with consistency. Their superb smoked brisket, hot guts and beef ribs taste exactly the same, every single time. I’ve been eating there for 2 decades and have never had a bad meal. Anybody who tells you Black’s is not the best in Lockhart should be looked at with a wary eye.


Photo of Black’s Barbecue

7} Mitnica in Zagreb, Croatia. This is a Serbian Barbecue house in the western part of Zagreb. It is unfathomably delicious. Smart choice here is Maksimir’s Strings, which is a meat buffet brought to you, course by course, til you beg them to stop with the meat already. Their barbecue “sauce” is kaymak, a sort of clotted cream. After eating a half dozen rounds of meat the waiter was so impressed he comped me a rakia, which is the national liquor drink of Croatia, it burns like fire with a sweet finish. An appropriate end to such indulgence.


Photo of Mitnica courtesy of RL Reeves Jr.

8} Johnny Ray’s Barbecue in Birmingham, Alabama. Many misty, water-colored memories of this joint. Thinking about it makes me tear up a bit. I spent so much time here during my Birmingham tenure I was often mistaken for a worker. A giant, brick pit runs along the far wall and a busy crew of workers hustle the meat off the smoker all day long. Splendid rib tips, excellent smoky chicken and even an occasional brisket would make its way off the pit. House cut fries, hand dipped onion rings, sweet tea and mile-high cream pies were all on the menu and everything just tasted so damn fine.


Photo of Johnny Ray’s courtesy of Miranda Carter

9} Davis Grocery in Taylor, Texas. The good reverend James Davis Jr is doing the Lord’s work through the power of smoked meat. I like to go in this little grocery store on a Saturday, the minister’s busiest day. Expect some good conversation while Davis is wrestling off hot, smoky briskets and big racks of pork ribs. Davis Grocery is on the wrong side of the railroad tracks and many people, even Taylor natives, don’t know about him but you’ll not find better barbecue in Williamson County.


Photo of Davis Grocery courtesy of Full Custom Gospel BBQ

10} Zimmerhanzel’s in Smithville, Texas. Criminally under-appreciated, world class Texas barbecue. The city of Smithville went into a revolt when they ceased operations a few years back. The family was forced back into the game as the town folk took to the streets! A forty five minute drive from Austin, Zimmerhanzel’s has been quietly putting out top flight brisket, sausage and ribs since 1990.


Photo of Zimmerhanzel’s courtesy of Blue Eyes and Bluebonnets

RL Reeves Jr is on Twitter HERE
RL Reeves Jr on Austin Barbecue,Food Trucks and Dive Bars HERE
RL Reeves Jr on Texas Barbecue, New Orleans, Istanbul and Budapest HERE

7 Comments »

  1. Thanks for asking me to participate. The list could’ve easily had 50 on it. It was hard thinning the herd but fun to sit back and evaluate a lifetime of barbecue eating to come up with a hall of fame. And if you haven’t eaten at Archibald’s, stop what you’re doing and head for the nearest freeway onramp with one of those giant foam rubber thumbs and start hitching your way to Tuscaloosa.

    Comment by rl reeves jr — August 27, 2012 @ 8:26 am

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    Pingback by ChowpapiRL Reeves Jr Reports To The Main Stage: Issues Top Ten Barbecue List For Kevin's BBQ Joints » Chowpapi — August 27, 2012 @ 12:26 pm

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  5. bad news coming out of Bham. Johnny Ray’s has been bulldozed. more later.

    Comment by rl reeves jr — September 4, 2012 @ 10:51 am

  6. Thanks for the reviews and comment!

    I will check out R&G and Zimmerhanzels.

    And you are right about John Mueller, he wanted to fight me because I told him I bought my brisket at Blacks because I liked it better than his. LOL.

    Agree that Blacks is the most consistent BBQ joint anywhere I know. Have loved their brisket since 1960. Have to disagree about Davis Grocery in Taylor. Very inconsistent because they dont sell that much all day long like Louie Muellers on the other side of the tracks. LM ranks just begind Blacks to me, if only because their lines are so damn slow and the pepper is just too overwhelming at times (and I LOVE pepper).

    Comment by James Rockford — December 30, 2012 @ 2:14 pm

  7. Sorry Roy, I won;t be coming out to your little joint in McMahan. Why? You might ask?

    Because you were a freaking TRAITOR to the folks that employed you at City Market when them city fellers from Houston came calling and promised you a big ol” partnership stake in their RIP-OFF Luling City Market BBQ store. Serves you right that the city slickers scrwed you over, nobody likes a traitor stealing and selling recipes that weren’t his own.

    Enjoy your little monthly checks, old man…

    Comment by James Rockford — December 30, 2012 @ 3:09 pm

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